Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Canadian Tradition

I'm currently part way through Brian Lee Crowley's latest book: Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values. So far so good. I hope to have a review up later in the week. The basic thesis is that Canada was founded as a classically liberal society, and then lost its way through a combination of changing intellectual trends and Quebec nationalism. It is the later that Crowley cites as vital in explaining Canada's higher than average level of statism compared to other English speaking nations. The Quiet Revolution, and its aftermath, sparked a bidding war for the loyalty--if that's the word--of the Quebecois. The thesis is not original, but Crowley brings a considerable weight of scholarship to bear on the issue. He also breaks the taboo among the Canadian intelligentsia of stating the obvious: In the main the Quebecois are not loyal to Canada. The book is endorsed by a dazzling array of Canadian conservatives: Conrad Black, Michael Bliss, William Gairdner, Barbara Kay, Tom Flanagan and David Frum. If we can speak of Canadian conservative establishment, the above is a Who's Who. From the National Post:

The state had been expanding on both sides of the border for years. When Stephen Leacock warned of the impending arrival of socialism in Canada in 1924, the state in Canada was spending 11% of GDP. By 1960, we were spending over 28%. Again, however, there was nothing in that that distinguished Canada; government was carving out a bigger role for itself everywhere. No one denies that the zeitgeist was there, no one denies that government in general and the social service state in particular were growing. What has to be explained is not the direction of change, but rather its speed and scope and timing. 

And here the parallel social and economic developments of Canada and the United States over the previous century must be given their due weight. We were two societies with a similar intellectual, philosophical and institutional endowment. We Canadians thought of ourselves as the truer guardians of the British traditions of liberty and limited government, but the Americans fought a revolution in order to vindicate what they thought of as the rights and liberties of Englishmen. The spirit of the great liberal individualist John Locke presided over America's founding debates in the eighteenth century, just as he did over the Confederation debates of the nineteenth.

Posted by Richard Anderson on September 19, 2009 in Canadian History, Canadian libertarian politics, Canadian Politics, Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Social conservatives are an ally in the freedom movement. Only statists are not

The American Thinker has published on a subject close to my heart: the need for reconciliation between social conservatives and libertarians. In “A libertarian defense of social conservatism,” Randall Hoven opens with this:

Social conservatism is taking a beating lately.  Not only did it lose in the recent elections, it is being blamed for the Republican losses.  If only the religious right would get off the Republican Party's back, the GOP could win like it is supposed to again.  I beg to differ.

I'm anything but a social conservative.  In nine presidential elections, I voted Libertarian in six.  I am a hard core "limited government" conservative/libertarian; I want government out of my pocket-book and out of my bedroom.  Concerning my religion, it's none of your business, but I'm somewhere in the lapsed-Catholic-deist-agnostic-atheist spectrum; let's just call it agnostic.

Having said all that, I have no problem with "social conservatives" or the "religious right" and their supposed influence on the Republican party.  I base this not on the Bible or historical authority, but on the love of liberty and the evidence of my own eyes.

Randall Hoven goes on to argue that the Nanny Statists are responsible for more intrusions on our liberty than social conservatives, who are actually quite weak politically. He also argues that on issues like drugs, there is bi-partisan support for prohibition, so don't blame conservative Republicans.

While it's an interesting and valuable column, Hoven doesn’t really address the concerns of social liberals that a more powerful social conservative movement could be a threat to social freedoms.

Hoven’s piece also falls short in that it ignores the libertarian nature of real conservative priorities: family, church and community. Those who advocate for a free society must understand that lasting freedom requires social order, which depends in large part on the private and voluntary institutions considered sacred by conservatives – family, church and community. These institutions are too often dismissed by reckless, counter-culture libertarians influenced by the “dynamism” of people like Virginia Postrel.

The war on the family decried by social conservatives is a very real war on liberty. And only when social conservatives and libertarians come together, will we have a movement that gives us both social order and freedom.

Social conservatives are an ally in the freedom movement. Only statists are not.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 23, 2008 in Canadian libertarian politics | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Marc Emery wants Vancouverites to get serious about the economic downturn ahead, but voters just want their pet projects paid for and the media wants its circus

If you don’t pay close attention to Marc Emery, you might think his advocacy and activism is nothing more than playful public mischief, or even self-aggrandizement. But those who do pay attention know Emery to be serious, principled and uncompromising, not just in his efforts to legalize marijuana, but in his work to advance a wider agenda for liberty.

His generosity also knows no bounds – even when it should. He gives all his money away to campaigns across the globe to legalize marijuana or ploughs it back into his own many ventures from Cannabis Culture magazine to a non-profit drug treatment centre to his own self-financed campaigns for public office.

Emery’s brash style and bombastic rhetoric have been the secret to much of his media success – the self-styled “Prince of Pot” always makes for good copy, and he knows it. But his international standing as the spokesperson for marijuana legalization has come about for reasons other than style. Emery has a brilliant mind, a firm understanding of libertarian philosophy and economics, an insatiable appetite for public policy and organizational abilities unmatched in the Canadian freedom movement. All of this was properly acknowledged when Emery was invited to speak at Idea City alongside some of Canada’s most respected political, academic, business and culture leaders.

Knowing this, it is no surprise that Emery has grown frustrated with his own campaign for Mayor of Vancouver. The media wants its circus, and voters want their pet projects financed. Nobody wants to hear from Emery that Vancouver faces serious economic problems for which the bloated and ever-expanding public sector is at least partially responsible – and, at the very least, will never solve.

Will Emery get a hearing before the November 15th municipal vote? I doubt it, but the Western Standard has published an opinion piece by Emery to ensure that his warnings are not forgotten by history.

You can read "My manifesto for the city of Vancouver" here or simply enjoy the excerpts below the fold. (I would highly recommend reading the excerpt related to Emery's qualifications to be Mayor.)

Marc Emery on the Vancouver mayoral election:

Saturday night, I was due to give a five-minute performance at the Creative City Cabaret. In Vancouver, candidates are asked to do almost anything but discuss issues relevant to managing the city government. I committed to doing a rendition of the scene from Monty Python & The Holy Grail where Arthur meets up with the peasant; it’s a great scene, and perhaps my favourite scene ever. But I can’t do it. I’m not running to be Court Jester. The job I’m applying for is to be Mayor of Vancouver in a time of imminent and dire crisis. I’ll bomb, I’m sure, but the only thing I’ve ever really been good at before an audience is telling them uncomfortable truths.


I haven’t met a single voter who cares about my issues, my perspective or asks my questions, so I am truly a gadfly this election. In the next three years, Vancouver will face an economic contraction, collapse, recession, that is unprecedented in the last 50 years. Construction activity will dry up in 2009 and more so in 2010. Retail stores will be closing in large numbers after this Christmas, and many businesses here have begun substantial lay-offs that will worsen in the winter and spring ahead. Rising unemployment, homelessness, business closings, will see greater pressure on charities, Food Banks, the Salvation Army. In the next two years, the auto industry, forestry, construction, retail, restaurants will all be suffering terrible reductions in activity. This means dramatically less tax revenues to the federal government, the province and city, as great a reduction in tax revenues as we have ever seen perhaps.

The perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances will batter this Boomtown. The Olympics are here in 15 months, and it couldn’t be worse timing. That will be the trough of the recession, the worst part. Revenue to the Olympics will be much less than anticipated, while Olympic over-runs are legacies guaranteed by the taxpayers of Vancouver and British Columbia.


My only “radical” assertion as Mayor would be to unilaterally end drug prohibition. Prohibition is an extremely expensive and failed policy. It enriches crime gangs, taxes our police force, fuels property crimes against cars and homes, feeds the pawnshops with stolen goods, motivates addicted women to become prostitutes, lures young people into the drug trade, creates the conditions for gangland killings and violence, makes the situation of the mentally ill and homeless much worse, and damages our reputation with tourists because the drug problems look terrible.


Is Emery qualified to be mayor?

• I have been a businessman for 38 years. My first retail catalogue was issued January 1, 1971. I have been a downtown Vancouver businessman for 14 years, with up to 50 employees, supervising $3 - $5 million in sales each year. I currently employ 30 people.

• I have been a community activist for 29 years, since 1980. I have been instrumental in repealing two laws (The Sunday Shopping laws in 1988, the Banned literature laws in 1995) and financed the Canadian Supreme Court challenge to the Marijuana prohibition in 2003, which lost 6-3.

• I have been a publisher of community newspapers and magazines since 1981. I have been publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine since 1994 and publisher of POT.TV since 2000.

• I have been featured in a positive light in every major North American media, including a front-page portrait in The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 5, 1995), feature stories in Rolling Stone magazine, The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, 60 Minutes (CBS Television), and numerous others. The documentary film by CBC called “The Prince of Pot: The US vs. Marc Emery” has a resume of my activist career.

• As leading industry spokesperson for the cannabis culture I have been responsible for bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to British Columbia since 1994, providing more wealth to this province than possibly any other single individual. British Columbia’s marijuana industry is second largest in the province, and by 2010, will eclipse construction as the leading generator of income in the province.

• I have never declared bankruptcy or not paid a debt in 38 years of business. Despite being arrested 23 times, jailed 17 times and raided 6 times for my activism, I have been resilient enough to survive as a businessman and bounce back each time, learning important skills in survival and prudent money management. I know how to scale back spending to deal with emergency crises!

• I have raised 4 adopted children who lived with me from 1980 to 2001 (all on their own now) and know what it is like to raise children and provide for a family.

• I donated at least $3,500,000 to activist groups, individuals, organizations, symposiums, conferences, lobby groups, marches, rallies, in Vancouver and across the globe from 1994 to 2005, about $300,000 to $400,000 a year in that period.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 13, 2008 in Canadian libertarian politics, Marc Emery | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who owns you, Michael Coren?

I listened to part of the show today on 1010 CFRB Toronto called Two Bald Guys With Strong Opinions

Today's show was two guys arguing for and against CCTV cameras on public property. It was my first time listening in, and I was driving so I couldn't call in and the phone number was not mentioned. I don't know whether the hosts just pick a side for the sake of the show, or whether Michael Coren was really taking the point of view of the surveillance statist. I'm going to assume he means it.

He put one caller on the spot (who brought up the Patriot Act) by insisting he name one government program that government had actually taken advantage of. The guy choked up, maybe a little nervous. But Michael had, in the previous three minutes, brought up human rights abuses by the HRCs (freedom of speech and expression, after all, is a human right). In light of this, why doesn't Michael name us one government program that hasn't failed or been abused by government in some way? 

It was surprising and sad when Michael characterized libertarians as people who don't fully believe in the rule of law. In reality, all libertarians know that freedom is impossible without the rule of law protecting the rights of individuals. Maybe Michael just doesn't know enough about libertarian political philosophy. Here you go, Michael, why not learn about it from an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand source: Wikipedia. Or an even shorter version from Cato's David Boaz here.

Coren is in favour of the use of CCTV cameras. He's even in favour of using them to catch people for consensual crimes -- he said they should be used to catch drug dealers. In practice, that means users too. His argument is essentially an argument for a surveillance society that will help prop up the failed war on drugs.

I hear they now have loudspeakers on some of these cameras in the UK so that bureaucrats can bark orders at people if they throw a candy wrapper on the ground.

These cameras have been abused already to spy on people inside their own homes. Take a look at this, Michael. How many of these cases go unreported?

The thing that Michael needs to know is that in Canada we love our civil liberties and we don't want one camera per 14 people like in the UK. But adopting other countries' bad ideas is something governments do best. So maybe ours will adopt CCTV cameras with Michael's endorsement.

I heard a guy call in and say "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide." Michael did not disagree. I heard that line from a Mountie who wanted to search my car. He said if I don't allow him to search my car, then that means I have something to hide. It was because of this illogic that I refused the search. The mounties don't have a right to search my car unless they suspect that there's something illegal going on. And refusing a search is not a reason to think that something illegal is going on. It's reason to think that I don't want some stranger looking through my stuff. It's also reason to think that I like freedom from tyranny.

I heard this same newspeak from Michael. He said that CCTV cameras on government property liberate us. That is like saying war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. 

This is the London, England that Michael Coren wants for Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto and so on.

So Michael Coren, who owns you?

Posted by Lindy Vopnfjord on October 23, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian libertarian politics, Canadian Politics, Freedom of expression, Marijuana reform, Media, U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Monday, October 13, 2008

Libertarian Candidate Responds to Western Standard Questions

I'm running as a candidate for the Libertarian Party of Canada in Scarborough--Rouge River, Ontario.   Here are my responses to a list of test questions asked by the Western Standard:

1. Ezra Levant test – Will you repeal Section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act? You can learn more about that here:

I believe in freedom of speech - on and off the Internet.   I dislike racism and anti-Semitism, etc., but we need to be able to talk freely about subjects in order to criticize and separate good from bad.   The establishment political class do not believe in freedom of speech and we need to stop them from eating away at this fundamental pillar and value of Canadian society.    Like so many other issues, there is a global power grab going on that is directed at the middle class.  And the political establishment feels threatened by the potential for revolt against all the wars and erosion of national sovereignty which they prop up with their smears and propaganda.   “Hate” laws are a tool for control and policing of opinion.  Speech laws, drug prohibition, gun grabs, attacks on civil liberties, Internet regulations, “environmental” attacks on property rights, carbon taxes and banking bail-outs - it’s all part of the same picture.

2. Marc Emery test – Will you oppose the extradition of Marc Emery to the US for charges related to selling marijuana seeds. You can learn more about that here:

Our society needs more empathy for others, to leave people alone.   The drug war is all about cruelty and abuse, so of course they came to arrest Marc Emery wearing ski masks!   And again the Canadian government, as with the Security and Prosperity Partnership and banking bail-outs, puts U.S. and corporate influence above the interests of Canadians.

The drug war is a reason to not vote Conservative.  The Conservatives are likely to extradite Marc Emery.    I think the Liberals would be just as bad or worse with bank bailouts, so vote Libertarian if there is a candidate in your riding or stay home.

3. Pierre Lemieux test – Will you repeal the national firearms registry and provide amnesty to anyone charged under this legislation? More here:

Canadians traditionally have had the freedom and right to own firearms and this has eroded over time.  We are facing growing government power and restrictions on our lives.  I am glad to see there is resistance among firearms owners to the new government invasions of their lives.  Who is threatening violence?  The government.   Who wants to own all the guns ultimately and leave people defenceless?  The government. 

4. Jacques Chaoulli test – Will you amend the Canadian Health Act to remove any and all barriers to private health delivery. Here’s our cover story on the Chaoulli case for background:

As in the case of the drug war, the health care system, which is supposed to be so compassionate, is actually cruel and abusive towards patients who are forced to suffer long delays while they wait for treatment.   As in the case of provincial legislation in Ontario, violators are threatened with fines and prison sentences.    That’s why libertarians cannot support it!  Nobody should be proud of that!  And read all about the queue-jumping.   Amazing!  They want freedom for themselves but not for everyone else.   Same old story.   Violence doesn’t solve problems and threats of violence are what the health care system is all about.

My campaign information is at canadianliberty.com/blog. My campaign brochure is here (pdf).

–Alan Mercer, Libertarian Party of Canada, Scarborough–Rouge River

Posted by Alan Mercer on October 13, 2008 in Canadian libertarian politics | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Monday, October 06, 2008

Marijuana and abortion: Libertarian Party pamphlets showcase sound policies, and a challenging identity crisis

The Libertarian Party has released two pamphlets that the party’s 26 candidates will be distributing this week across the country. The first one contains the party's position on abortion, the second on marijuana policy reform.

Here’s “I’m pro-life, and I’m voting for the Libertarian Party!”

“The Libertarian Party will fight to keep abortion safe and legal, but we also feel a compromise is needed to ensure that the deeply held views of pro-life Canadians are respected. If elected, I will work to protect the freedom of conscience of pro-life medical workers and taxpayers by getting the federal government out of the business of financing abortions and pro-choice advocacy groups,” Dennis Young, Leader of the Libertarian Party.

(Pamphlet: Download libertarian_party_abortion_pamphlet.pdf)

And “I want an adult approach to marijuana policy, and I’m voting for the Libertarian Party!”

Legalize the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana by adults

After 80 years of prohibition, at least 10 million Canadians have still used marijuana. Legalizing the cultivation and sale of marijuana will ensure the safe, peaceful trade of a drug that is substantially less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

Pardon and expunge the convictions of all non-violent marijuana law offenders

600,000 Canadians have criminal records for marijuana possession. These criminal records make international travel difficult or impossible and can limit employment opportunities. The Libertarian Party would pardon Canadians with non-violent marijuana convictions.

Stop the extradition of Canadian magazine publisher Marc Emery to the U.S.A.

Canadian magazine publisher and political activist, Marc Emery, will spend the rest of his life in an American prison for selling marijuana seeds unless the Canadian governments asserts its sovereignty over drug policy and stops the politically motivated extradition trial against him by the American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

(Pamphlet: Download libertarian_party_marijuana_pamphlet.pdf)

These are sound libertarian policies, but they showcase the challenge faced by all libertarian parties: a lack of a coherent cultural identity.

Social conservatives may not be comfortable in a party that supports marijuana legalization, and marijuana policy reformers and other “progressives” may not be comfortable in a party that supports defunding abortion or private healthcare in general.

The solution, of course, is for libertarians to campaign either on the right or on the left – to choose a constituency. Give conservative voters a platform that includes gun rights, private healthcare and free trade – or give the left a platform that includes an anti-interventionist foreign policy, drug policy reform and civil liberties. If you mix the two platforms, you’ll end of making neither constituency happy. Right?

Maybe, but that’s not the way libertarians think.  “Our goal is to show how freedom is the ultimate solution to public policy problems. We can address the concerns of the left and the right within a single party with our focus personal and economic freedom,” said Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young.

In addition to marijuana legalization and defunding abortion, the party plans to release campaign material on healthcare choice, gun rights and a flat tax policy.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on October 6, 2008 in Canadian libertarian politics | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

NFA not willing to abandon Tories, but welcome Libertarians to gun control dialogue

Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young said yesterday that he’ll push for a National Firearms Appreciation Day to be officially recognized by the federal government.

Young is proposing September 18th for this day of reflection, which would mark the anniversary of the death of former National Firearms Association (NFA) president Dave Tomlinson.

While gun rights advocates are an important constituency for the Libertarian Party, NFA officials are taking a cautious approach to this election:

“National Firearms Association appreciates the gesture of the Libertarian Party in calling for a National Firearms Appreciation Day in honour of our deceased National President, David A Tomlinson,” said National President Blair Hagen in a written statement. “Although National Firearms Association is advising it's members and the firearms community of Canada to continue their investment in the Conservative Party of Canada and the defeat of the Liberal Firearms Act by supporting Conservative candidates in the 2008 election campaign, National Firearms Association welcomes the participation of the Libertarian Party of Canada in the national dialogue on the future of firearms control laws and Canada's cultural heritage of firearms ownership,” continued Hagen.

Young has been critical of Harper’s decision in 1995 to vote in favour of legislation that created the national firearms registry. Harper voted in favour on Bill C-68 on the second reading, but against the bill on the third and final reading of parliament.

“The NFA has more confidence than I do in Harper’s willingness to put firearms on the agenda. The pressure in parliament is overwhelmingly on the side of further firearms restrictions and prohibitions. The Libertarians hope to provide some pressure on the side in favour of gun rights,” said Young.

While Hagen and the NFA are standing behind Harper for now, the National President concedes that “governments have taken the firearms community for granted before.”

Young is a former soldier and military police officer.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on October 6, 2008 in Canadian libertarian politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Libertarian candidate Simard: “The Libertarian Party is the only one that stands for both personal and economic freedom.”

For those following the Libertarian Party in this campaign, Peace River candidate Melanie Simard got some press in the Fairview Post.

More about Simard:

Originally from France, Simard is currently a High Prairie high school teacher who first came to Alberta as an exchange student in Red Deer in 1995. She settled in northern Alberta a few years later and has been the director and development officer for L’Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (French Canadian Association of Alberta) in Falher since 2004.

And more about what she stands for:

“The Libertarian Party is the only one that stands for both personal and economic freedom.”

“Governments should only exist to protect individuals’ rights and their property. We stand for individual rights and property rights and the sole purpose of the government should be to protect those rights,” she said.

“Environmental rights should be treated as property rights.”

“We tend to believe that people are responsible for the condition of society rather than the other way around…. We’re thinking that people should take care of themselves,” she said.

“People know where there is a need in their community and the government really doesn’t.”

“We’re so used to thinking that the government has to take care of us that people don’t realize that we are the power, we can take care of ourselves, and we can organize associations to care of our homes and our farmers. It doesn’t have to be the job of the government,” said Simard.

Simard is running against Conservative MP Chris Warkentin.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on October 5, 2008 in Canadian libertarian politics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Libertarian Party will push for National Firearms Appreciation Day

Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young said today that he’ll push for a National Firearms Appreciation Day to be officially recognized by the federal government.

“This day will be a national day of reflection on our inherited British common law right to gun ownership and the role that firearms have played historically, and today, in preserving peace, personal security and freedom,” said Young.

Young is proposing September 18th for this day of reflection, which would mark the anniversary of the death of former National Firearms Association president Dave Tomlinson.

“I think remembering those average citizens who have resisted the expansion of gun control laws in Canada – people like Dave Tomlinson – is important. These people are the unsung heroes of civil society,” said Young.

The party says that Canada has a common law tradition steeped in property rights, a tradition that also protects our right to gun ownership.

“A National Firearms Appreciation Day is needed because Stephen Harper refuses to lead on this issue. He refuses to tell Canadians the truth about the relationship between guns and crime -- and he's been silencing gun rights advocates in his own caucus, people like MP Garry Breitkreuz," said Young. "Rather than fear gun ownership, Canadians should celebrate gun ownership. We need to change the culture, and the first step is to have an honest discussion about the positive role that guns can play in our society,” Young continued.

While Young thinks recognition of a National Firearms Appreciation Day will be a battle, he says Harper could repair his broken relationship with the firearms community by supporting this initiative.

“The farmers and hunters I’ve spoken to don’t trust Harper to do the right thing on guns after his vote for the firearms registry. This is Harper’s chance to say sorry, and to begin treating gun ownership as a legitimate Canadian right,” said Young.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on October 5, 2008 in Canadian libertarian politics | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack